Frequently Asked Questions on Crop Circles

  • In Articoli
  • 14-03-2008
  • by CICAP Study Team on Crop Circles

What is the official opinion of the CICAP with regard to the crop circles phenomenon, intended in its completeness (excluding the formations which have an easy natural explanation)?

The CICAP believes that crop circles are (unless otherwise stated) a work of human creativity and human mind.
The phenomenon, in terms of complexity of the formations, evolved substantially with time.
Although for the formations appeared until the end of the 80s we can talk of jokers, now it is necessary to update this position.
It is to note that we are facing works, which belong to a new form of art. Just as all the other forms of art, it has masters and students.
And as the time goes by, students at last overcome masters.
The CICAP believes that the correct reading-key consists in interpreting the crop-circles as artistic expressions and not as paranormal or alien phenomena. There is a large number of artists who have given life to a real form of "Land Art", even if it is wrapped in a fascinating mystery.

What is "Land Art"?

The term "Land Art" ("Earth Art" or "Earth Works") was coined for the first time in California in 1969 by Gerry Schum. A "Land artist" works on the landscape by exploiting its elements, but without altering them permanently. Consequently, the works are not fixed or protected, but simply "given" to nature and so they are meant to be "naturally dismantled" and to turn part of the landscape again.
"Land Art" not only grows up with nature, but also develops and dies with it, as the atmospheric agents act.
Therefore, the works which belong to "Land Art" have an intrinsically ephimer characteristic and their documentation is above all photographical or video.
Due to the mystery that has been built about them, crop circles are surely the greatest and the most worldwide spread works belonging to "Land Art" of all times.
Without any doubt, the major exponents of this art (crop circles) are the English.

If, as you state, crop circles are made by artists, why don't these artists come in the open?

The form of art of the crop circles is very similar to the "Aerosol Art" (that is, realised with spray paint). You can admire it every day in many cities, if you walk.
The so named "CREWS" paint wonderful graffiti on the walls of buildings. They act at night, trying not to be seen, and the accomplishment of a work is a continuous challenge for them.
Actually, both graffiti and crop circles are damages from the point of view of the owner of the walls or of the farmer.
Therefore, the artists are usually afraid of the farmers reaction, even if sometimes a preventive agreement between artists and farmers or between artists and people that sell aerial photos of the formations could exist. Eventually, it is not to forget that the mystery is part of the satisfaction in this kind of art.

Is there a mystery behind crop circles or not?

The real mystery of crop circles consists in the feelings and sensations that these wonderful formations can arouse in the human heart. After all, art in itself is one of the greatest and most interesting mysteries of the human creativity.

Is it real that the CICAP supports the hypothesis that crop circles could be made by porcupines in love that, running in a circular motion, leave their trails?

No, it is not.
This is a legend. Probably, an article published in October 1991 on the CICAP magazine (now "Scienza & Paranormale") year III, number 3, originated it.
The article was written by Luigi Garlaschelli, chemist at University of Pavia and responsible for the CICAP experiments, and is titled "The hoax of the circles". It reports a list of natural hypothesis, using as a source also the magazine "Il Giornale dei Misteri" (n. 226, August 1990).
Moreover, Garlaschelli writes:
[...] It is hard to believe that this kind of causes may account for so clear-cut imprints, for their sudden appearance in the 80s and for their evolving complexity. [...]

The issue 226 of GdM contains three articles about crop circles, one by Pier Luigi Sani, Honorary President of CUN (Centro Ufologico Nazionale) who died in 1999, and two by Edoardo Russo, President of CISU (Centro Italiano Studi Ufologici).
Pier Luigi Sani wrote in that article:
[...] Besides the hypotheses just considered, there exist some minor ones. As an example, according to one of them, circles would be made by animals in love: fallow-deer, porcupines or foxes that would move around in a circle in cereal fields when courting. [...]

Edoardo Russo writes in the same issue (discussing circles that would have been appearing for more than ten years in the woods of Val di Fassa and Val di Fiemme in summer):
[...] According to some local hunters they would be traces left by roe-deer during courting, when the buck runs after the doe moving around in a circle and trampling on grass with its hoofs. The grass would lay crushed for some days and then it would slowly rise again. Due to the lack of first-hand data about the features of the plants inside these imprints, we cannot confirm nor deny this hypothesis. [...]

Although Garlaschelli mentioned just deer in his article, the information probably got distorted as time passed and that hypothesis was erroneously attributed to CICAP.

Is it true that CICAP claims that "... since there are traces of microwaves in crop circles, these were formed by the antennas of cell phone repeaters that somehow concentrate their waves in specific zones of land (so creating pictures in fields)"?

It is not true.
This legend probably originated in some ufological mailing list, following a distorsion of some claims reported by Colin Andrews during a television program about crop circles.
For more information on Colin Andrews' works, please refer to the link ( in the right column of this page.

Is there a specific region where crop circles are particularly numerous and complex?

Yes, it is southern England, rich in hills and wide cultivated fields.
Most crop circles, and especially the most spectacular formations, appear in a zone named "Wessex Triangle", whose ideal vertices are the cities of Wantage, Warminster and Winchester; the Stonehenge site is within the triangle. The other important sacred site of Avebury is just close to the border of that area. This area of England has been considered sacred during the history of the four millennia preceeding the Christian age. According to the ancient British traditions, here you could collect the energies of earth in order to contact the energies of the cosmos; today, according to someone's hypotheses, the same project would be proposed again by mysterious entities or civilizations different from our own.

Is it true that this phenomenon was even recorded in chronicles of 1678?

The phenomenon is a little more than twenty years old. In fact, people have been reporting it and talking about it since (about) 1980.
A very detailed article about the "Mowing Devil" pamphlet of 1678 is available on-line.

Is there a clear definition of "true" or "false" formation that let formations be unambiguously classified?

No, there is not.
It seems quite certain that by a "false" formation one means a man-made one, but even that is controversial: there are manifestly man-made formations about which some experts or "believers" say that after the human intervention there has been a "superimposition" of "true" energies.

How can we distinguish between true and false formations?

Nobody ever suggested an ultimate criterion in order to ascertain if a formation is true or false, although, as we have just seen, the definition of true or false is actually inexistent.

After watching some TV programs, I think I have understood that a formation is true if it contains anomalies. Is this deduction correct?

This deduction is very common, but it seems that experts do not accept it.
The famous formation "Arecibo Reply" (see following questions) of August 2001 did not contain any anomaly, but that was not enough for experts to label it as "false", i.e. man-made.

Okay, we understood your position, but did Science take up an official position about crop circles in general?

Since single events turn out to be dissimilar, we cannot speak about a "general" and "official" position of science about crop circles. However, opinions have been expressed on specific cases (see the next question).

What do you think about that wonderful formation that represents a reply to the famous encoded message that the Arecibo radio telescope sent to outer space in 1974, towards the "Hercules great globular cluster", Cluster M13? ("Arecibo Reply", August 2001)

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) supplied a very specific comment on this formation.
A very detailed article (in Italian) about this formation is available on-line and contains the comment from SETI.

And what about the alien face handing a CD? (Crabwood Farm House, Hampshire, UK August 2002)

An in-depth analysis (in Italian) of this formation too is available on-line.

But the movie of Oliver's Castle that shows some UFOs creating a crop circle is authentic or not?

No, it is not. An article (in Italian) is available on-line.

What do you think about the anomalies found in many crop circles?

It is impossible to answer so generic a question. Every kind of anomaly requires a specific inquiry. Some checks are being made and some more are planned. The results will be disclosed as soon as the single inquiries and studies will be completed.
However, the preliminary results suggest to doubt that the so-called "anomalies" are really so anomalous as they are usually presented. Moreover, there are few scientific studies about the modifications that flattening causes in plants (see the next question about "Random pictures"), and this is why these phenomena can be easily considered unusual.

I have been following the crop circle phenomenon for several years. Why is there a lot of focus on anomalies today while this concept was not present at first in the literature about formations?

The concept of "anomaly" was actually born in the first Nineties. The presence of an anomaly should support the hypothesis of a non-human origin.
Before introducing the concept of "anomaly" the leading experts claimed that crop circles could not have been made by man because "... it would have been impossible for human beings to move in the fields without leaving trails".
Actually, you can notice - and anybody could! - straight paths in the fields, the so-called tramlines which are created by farm tractors during seeding. You can easily enter the fields along these paths without leaving trails. The surprising thing is that the experts themselves always advised curious persons to follow these paths in order to avoid damaging the formations!
Nowadays we know about many clearly man-made formations without any evidence of traces of human passing.
Thus, the concept of "anomaly" replaced the "lack of field entrance human trails" argument that nowadays nobody mentions any more.

What do you think about the "dead flies" anomaly?

One usually thinks that anomalies (that should theoretically let you distinguish "true" formations from "false" ones) are constantly present in all or most formations that experts label as "true".
The "dead flies" puzzle is a good example of how wrong that commonplace thought is.
This oddity has been "well" reported in one formation (July 1998). A fungus that can infect flies and cause that type of phenomenon actually exists. Its name is "Entomophthora muscae". The scientific inquiry that settles this issue is available on-line.

What do you think about the "silica microspheres" (SiO2) anomaly?

As of this date, there is only formation where this oddity has been reported.
A specific article on this subject is being prepared.

What do you think about stem node lengthening?

It is one of the most complex anomalies, since it directly involves the biological inner workings of plants, which are not so simple. The lengthening can be caused by many reasons, either normal or pathological. For example, a very important element should be taken into account: the "anomalous" lengthening has been often observed in stems within random "pictures" created by the action of atmospheric agents like wind, rain or hail.
This subject too is being investigated.

Random pictures? What do you mean?

As already shown, atmospheric agents like wind, rain or hail tend to bend and flatten a plant down to the ground, causing the phenomenon known as "lodging".
The stem possesses the ability to bend upward at one of the nodes in case of "lodging" (natural cause) or mechanical flattening (which can be due to human action).
Therefore, even nature itself can "sculpture" artworks in wheat (they are usually easily recognizable), causing potential damages to the crop, since bent stems cannot be easily mowed.
It is easy to find references to this kind of formations by the abbreviation NGF ("Non Geometric Formations") or "Randomly Lodged Formations" or "Randomly Downed Formations".

A radiation emitted by a point-like or spherical source typically falls off with the inverse square of the distance. Is it true that stem node lengthening follows the same trend, considering the distance from the centre of the circle?

No, it is not. The results of this inquiry will be published in the most appropriate form as soon as possible.

But how can you explain that pictures often seem to follow precise geometric rules, that can sometimes be found only with an in-depth analysis?

To find geometric relationships or construction lines among the various elements of a figure that bears a regular structure is not surprising at all. Any picture drawn using a rule and a compass will exhibit geometrical bonds among parts, and a careful analysis will lead to highlight the possible construction lines. This helps to hint that those pictures cannot be made by a strange natural phenomenon, since nature does not show up such a geometrical regularity at this scale of width. On the contrary, the existence of a geometry is typical of any human construction: architectures include right angles, bisectors, arches, rectangles, regular polygons and so on. The figurative art includes the rules of perspective, which are geometrical. Poems have metrics. In music too structure and symmetries can be identified, as composers know well.

If I had a gun that could "eject" electromagnetic waves (EMW), if I could change the emission frequency and power, if I could stand on a crane over a wheat field, if I pointed my gun towards the field and switched it on, heading the waves for the stems, would I be able to flatten them to the ground?

A beam of light or microwaves with a power of 1 kW (which is a very high power) directly exerts a force of about 3.3 micronewton, which corresponds to a weight of 0.34 milligrams. A drop of water would produce a greater force.
A sufficient power for flattening the stems would reduce them to ashes much earlier. About the remote possibility of indirect effects: just think of the fact that even the major upholders of the presence of microwaves or other electromagnetic waves during the formation of the circles consider them a side phenomenon that has no active role in bending the stems.

Is it true that microwaves ionize air inside the formations?

No, at least not at the supposed level of power (i.e. not so high as to burn everything to ashes).
Even if microwaves (electromagnetic waves whose frequency range is much lower than infrared and visible light spectra) stroke the formations, they could not cause air ionization. The frequency of ionizing EMW is much higher, beyond the visible light and ultraviolet spectra.

But if a rotating magnetic field formed inside the circles, could it be the cause of the clockwise or counterclockwise flattening of wheat stems?

No, it could not.
A magnetic field can appreciably move only bodies with some magnetic properties, like magnets and some metals. Stems lack these properties. As a matter of pure theory, they could be bent by a really exceptional magnetic field intensity (some tens of teslas), which is even difficult to produce locally in a lab, and is really impossible to deliver at any significant distance (the magnetic component of EM waves lacks the required features).

Therefore, can you confirm that any microwaves or - more in general - electromagnetic waves that could hit the fields, would not explain stem flattening at all?

We confirm it.
Microwaves and generic EMW (of any frequency and power) do not explain at all the most evident feature of crop circles: the flattening of stems to the ground.

Therefore, as a consequence, a hypothetical emission of radiation from "Balls Of Light" (BOLs) could not be responsible of the creation of crop circles, i.e. of stem flattening. Is it correct?

It is correct.
As of this date, the existence of BOLs is supported only by witnesses or movies with a low degree of credibility, but even if both their existence and their presence during the formation of crop circles were really confirmed, stem flattening would be left unexplained.

What is the crop creation mechanism invoked by Levengood and Levengood-Talbott in the papers published in the scientific journal "Physiologia Plantarum"?

Plasma vortices.
Plasma is a very ionized gas made up of ions, electrons and neutral particles. It is considered the fourth aggregation state of matter, after the solid, liquid and gaseous states.
Plasma could be obtained by heating a low pressure gas up to extremely high temperatures.
Plasma pervades the universe and, for example, makes up stars and thus the Sun. During flares (explosions in the solar corona), the Sun emits a flux of matter that hits the Earth, affecting the highest layers of the atmosphere, from 200 to 400 kilometers in height, and disturbing telecommunications. This phenomenon shows up during aurora borealis and australis.
On Earth, matter is very seldom in the plasma state: as an example, plasma is created during the electric discharge of a lightning, or in fluorescent lamps.

Who propounded the plasma vortex theory?

Terence Meaden, professor of Physics and meteorologist.
According to Meaden, plasma vortices would presumably form on high above the fields, then they would quickly get down to the ground, thus forming the crop circles.
This hypothesis has been losing more and more solidity since the beginning of the '90s, when more and more complex pictograms, containing perfectly straight lines too, began appearing.
A natural phenomenon, such as the hypothetical plasma vortex, would never be able to flatten the stems in straight lines or sharp edges.

What is Terence Meaden's position on the crop circle phenomenon today?

In brief, Meaden says that all formations more complex than simple circles should be considered false.

Are the papers by Levengood and Levengood-Talbott the only papers about crop circles ever published on a scientific journal?

No, they are not.
There is also a paper by Eltjo H. Haselhoff, Ph.D. in Theoretical and Experimental Physics, published in "Physiologia Plantarum" in 2001. It is a comment to the Levengood and Talbott's paper published in the same journal in 1999.
The title of the paper is:
Opinions and comments on Levengood WC, Talbott NP (1999)
Dispersion of energies in worldwide crop formations. Physiol Plant 105: 615-624